Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 1
Monday, February 14, 2005

Caught between a rock and a hard place, Timothy Donner betrays his partner and makes a deal he may regret.


Firefly is the property of Joss Whedon, blah blah blah. You know the drill.

Thanks to Guildsister and Apollo for beta reading. Feedback will of course be appreciated.

Previous works:

We Have the Technology

The Poseidon Misadventure

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The deepest circle of hell is reserved for betrayers and mutineers.- Captain Jack Sparrow

Timothy Donner examined the coding that was the A.I. program he had acquired just a couple of weeks ago. When the contact within Blue Sun he knew only as Johnson had first told him about it, Donner had been indifferent. It was the sort of loot he wouldn't have normally handled. The A.I. was Unique, and Unique was notoriously impossible to fence, as those morons who had stolen the Lassiter were probably learning. Since Donner only stole for profit, it had been near the bottom of his list of priorities.

Then Warren came to him with her slightly crazy scheme. For it to properly work, the A.I. would be practically required. Deciding to take Johnson up on his offer, Donner contacted him and made the necessary arrangements.

Donner had studied both the program and the notes Johnson had provided. Though he understood enough to make use of the A.I., there were still a few bits of coding which were beyond Donner's comprehension. While it wouldn't get in the way of Warren's scheme, such unknowns bothered him.

Donner's thoughts were interrupted by a pounding at his apartment door. Uneasy at someone calling at this late hour, he grabbed his 9mm pistol. Looking through the peephole, he was surprised to see Johnson there. Letting him in, Donner asked, "What the hell are you doing here? I recall us agreeing never to meet face-to-face for our own safety."

"Screw that!" Johnson ranted. "If I had never told you about the A.I., this wouldn't be happening!"

"You're getting all worked up over a shakedown?" Donner asked. "Blue Sun has done that many a-time and you've always weathered them. What's different now?"

"Well the go se really hit the fan when the brass learned the A.I. had been swiped," Johnson explained. "This wasn't the usual kind of shakedown. This time, they sent these eerie-ass kids that I swear could look into your mind. I was lucky they didn't do me first. Gave me a chance to think my way through. Turns out those old stories are true and they can be confounded if you concentrate on number patterns. But it made them suspicious and I had to call in some favors to get out."

Once he managed to sort through all the blithering, Donner inquired, "What are the chances you could be traced here by Company Men?"

Johnson's eyes widened as if considering the implications. "I used my identicard as little as I could. That's why I came to you. I need you to forge me a new identicard. I can pay plenty." And with that he plopped down a sizable quantity of platinum.

Donner blinked at the amount. It was significantly more than he would have normally charged for such a service. But with the way Johnson was inconveniencing him, Donner felt no need to bring that up. "I can have it ready in a few minutes. Anything else?"

"Would you happen to know someone who could alter my face?"

"I'd go for Doc Simpson. He'll charge an arm and a leg, but he ain't no quack, he's quick, and he's discrete."

Once given his new identicard, Johnson asked, "Could you escort me to this Doc Simpson?"

"Now hold on," Donner interrupted. "There are some things where there ain't enough money to get me to do. Tangling with Company Men is one of them. But just to get you off my case, I think I can convince Eagle Eye Louie to do it. He'll need paying though."

Donner led Johnson down a flight of stairs to Eagle Eye Louie's apartment. Once he responded to Donner's knock, Louie asked, "Gorramit Donner, what are you waking me at this hour for?"

"Got a friend who wants to make an appointment with Doc Simpson, but he's a bit scared of his own shadow."

Louie grunted and replied, "Okay, I'll take him. But it'll cost two hundred platinum." Johnson spluttered indignantly, but handed over the money anyway.

Once they were gone, Donner considered his situation. While Eagle Eye Louie had a reputation which might give even Company Men second thoughts about attacking him, the same couldn't be said for Donner. Certain that Company Men would come for him, he decided he'd have to leave Cronus earlier than scheduled. Donner returned to his apartment long enough to grab his duffle bag and to strap on his concealed holster before slipping out the service entrance. As he weaved through the side streets of Wasatch to lose any pursuit, Donner used his portable Cortex link to send a Wave to Warren explaining about his imminent arrival on the Hunley.

* * * * *

three months later

Donner was doing the crossword in an old issue of Cortex Programming Monthly when the buzzer which signalled a ship docking with the tunnelled out asteroid's airlock went off. A surveillance camera confirmed that it was the Hunley. It really couldn't have been any other ship, since the airlock was nearly impossible to locate unless you knew what to look for. Still, like any competent hacker, Donner possessed an acute sense of paranoia.

When Donner arrived in the loading area, the airlock was already open. Out stepped his partner Victoria Warren. She was a tall swarthy woman in her late sixties, though the hunch in her back had taken away some of her previous height. There were hints that she once was quite striking, but Father Time had slapped her silly with the Ugly Stick. "So, what sort of goodies did you bring?" Donner asked.

"Enough provisions to last us for a few months," Warren replied. "And your contacts finally delivered on the two security bots we ordered. You got the programming done yet?"

"Not quite," said Donner. "I wanted to find out what sort of armament they'd have first so recoil can be properly calculated in the targeting routine."

"We're in luck on that score," stated Warren. "Monty stumbled over a forgotten Independent weapon cache not too long ago. Sold me a pair of Callahan L-60 light machine guns in good working order and plenty of ammo to go with them for a nice discount. Now let's get to work. Those supplies ain't unloading themselves."

Donner was a bit short of breath once everything had been transferred to the asteroid base. Still, it wasn't as bad as the first time he had done it. On the other hand, Warren was still heaving like she had run in a cross country race as she returned from activating the security systems aboard the Hunley. A far cry from the energetic old woman he had first met nearly seven years ago, just a couple of months after the War had ended. Old age had taken a toll in more ways than just a loss of good looks.

Warren grimaced as she watched the surveillance camera track the Hunley's departure. "How much longer 'til that concealed docking area is ready?" she asked. "I ain't happy with having to let that A.I. you installed fly the Hunley."

"Should be done in a couple of days," Donner replied. "It's been taking a while for the driller bots to make the entrance look natural."

Warren grunted and said, "Well, I'm dead on my feet. I'll be in my bunk."

Warren was heading in that direction when she hesitated as if remembering something and reached into her jacket pocket. Out of it she pulled a memory tab which she tossed over to Donner. Catching it, he asked, "What's this?"

"Instructions on what to do when I kick the bucket," Warren responded. "I ain't getting no younger, so I wrote up my will while I was on Cronus. I kept it all simple so it shouldn't be much of a hassle. Good night."

Donner shoved the tab in his pants pocket as he switched off the lights in the loading area. Stopping by the galley to grab some protein, he wondered what his future partner would be like. He was sure to find out within a year at the rate Warren was deteriorating. Her irrational distrust of doctors certainly wasn't going to help extend what life she had left. Hopefully, whoever it was wouldn't be prone to ranting about the Alliance. Donner himself couldn't have cared less about who won the War. But Warren seemed incapable of coming to terms with the fact that her side had lost. This hadn't been apparent to Donner until their operation started up and Warren became his sole human contact.

Settling down at his console, Donner started modifying the A.I. for use in the security bots as he munched on the unappetizing protein. He had never bothered to inform Warren that he had acquired it through an inside job in Blue Sun. In her mind, Blue Sun was synonymous with the Alliance and she would go to absurd lengths to avoid buying their products. Uncertain how she would react, he had remained vague about its origins.

Donner's musings were broken when the buzzer went off again, nearly causing him to choke on the protein he was chewing on. He checked the surveilllance camera, hoping it was just the A.I. having detected a glitch and choosing to redock. But the ship on the screen was clearly not the Hunley. The ship identifier program tagged it as a Mosquito-class transport, an earlier variant of the Firefly. It looked as if it was barely spaceworthy. They had almost certainly trailed Warren here. The fact that they took pains to go unnoticed indicated they were up to no good.

Donner went over his options. Exhausted as she was, Warren would be useless. The Mosquito didn't appear to be a very large ship, so probably didn't have much in the way of crew. If he got the drop on them as they came out the airlock, he could take them down. The odds weren't especially good, but there wasn't much else he could do. Opening his desk drawer, Donner removed his 9mm pistol and switched off the safety.

Donner peeked into the loading area. The airlock was closed. There didn't appear to be anyone there. Why were they taking so long to come out?

The shadows formed into an ugly face in front of Donner. A fist struck him and sent him reeling. Two sets of hands pinned him to the floor, knocking the pistol from his grip. A figure stepped out of the shadows, bent over him, and pulled out a knife.

Donner's mind raced, trying to not succumb to panic. An idea struck him. Warren definitely wouldn't be happy, but then it was her fault they were here in the first place. "Hey, that was a real piece of fei oo you came in." Four sets of eyes glared down at Donner, but he continued. "Now you saw the Hunley. She's a shiny looking ship, ain't she?" The one he guessed was the leader was looking interested. "Of course, you couldn't get in yourself. The Hunley has security systems out the wazoo. Major systems require Warren's handprints and retinals to operate. And the settings are hardwired. But I can hack around those. I can even temporarily circumvent the hardwiring." Almost immediately, he regretted mentioning the hardwiring at all, having let his nerves get the better of him. There was nothing to be done about it now. "So, how about it?"

The leader nodded, but indicated that something else was expected of Donner. He went pale when he realized what they wanted him to do. Well, it wasn't like Warren had much life left in her. And it was her fault they were in this mess in the first place. So he nodded his acceptance.

The three underlings went in the direction of Warren's bunk while Donner sat at his terminal. He linked to the Hunley's Cortex node and began the process. It was more tedious in nature than actually difficult. However, it was made far more stressful by the shotgun aimed at his head the whole time.

The two of them watched the Hunley approach on the surveillance camera and Donner commanded the A.I. to come to a relative stop. He was then guided towards Warren's bunk, from which screams were being emitted. The door opened to reveal the three underlings working her over. When she looked up, the fear on Warren's face was quickly replaced with rage. "You ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng!" she shrieked. "You told them where we are, didn't you?"

Donner smirked at her paranoid rant. "Actually, they followed you here on their own," he replied. "I'm just being smart enough not to let your idiocy drag me down with you." The leader then gave Donner a knife and he did what was required of him.

Once Warren had finished twitching, they all headed for the loading area. Donner watched as they removed their gear from the Mosquito. Once that was done, the pilot went aboard and detached it from the airlock as Donner had the A.I. dock. Aboard the Hunley, he set up a clock to indicate when the hardwiring would reset. He didn't even dare think of trying to deceive them while he was under their eye.

Once they were gone, it struck Donner how truly humped he was. As long as they continued to use the Hunley, he was effectively chained to them. And if they hijacked themselves a new ship, they could just leave him there to rot.

Donner then recalled the memory tab Warren had given him earlier. Since she was dead, he thought he may as well see what she had to say. He plugged the tab into a port and a video of Warren appeared on his terminal screen. "Unless you've decided to take an early peek, you're watching this because I'm dead. I'll be brief and to the point.

"Concerning my remains, I want you to incinerate them. I ain't chancing some sicko doctor using them to practice his corpse ventriliquism.

"Now in the will I wrote up, my share of the operation goes to my niece Zoe. Send her a Wave with handprint verification explaining what happened to me. Direct her to the law offices of Sheridan and Hooker in Wasatch, where the will is being kept. They'll direct her to Eagle Eye Louie. You'll send him coordinates for her to go to. When she arrives, make sure it actually is Zoe. Her handprints and retinals as well as the Cortex node you can contact her at are included on this memory tab."

When the message ended, Donner checked the node address. The fact that it was for a ship interested him greatly. Perhaps this would provide an opportunity for him to extract himself from his current predictament.

* * * * *

Onward to Chapter 2

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Chinese translations

Go se: Dog shit

Fei oo: Junk

Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng: Frog-riding bastard



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Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 3
Our Big Damn Heroes finally learn what Aunt Vicky has left Zoe and are unwittingly put on Trial.

Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 2
Zoe receives a Wave which might lead The Magnificent Seven Plus Two out of their current financial woes. Then again, it might not.

Guess Who's Coming to Donner?: Chapter 1
Caught between a rock and a hard place, Timothy Donner betrays his partner and makes a deal he may regret.

The Poseidon Misadventure: Part 2
Our Big Damn Heroes learn the dark secret of Mansfield.

The Poseidon Misadventure: Part 1
From back when it was the Magnificent Seven Minus Three. Serenity is forced to land on the backwater planet Poseidon for emergency repairs.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Six
And now the exciting contusion (sic). Nothing ever goes smooth, not even for the bad guys.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Five
Clarence is taking River back to the Hands of Blue, and it looks as if there's nothing our Big Damn Heroes can do about it.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Four
Clarence explains what happens when a neurologist with a chip on his shoulder gets access to an effectively unlimited budget and a P.O.W. camp full of Browncoats.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Three
The Magnificent Seven Plus Two rumble with the Chi'ang Sh'ich, with majorly unfun results. Some odd discoveries are also made.

We Have the Technology: Chapter Two
The Magnificent Seven Plus Two are finding the trip to Demeter to be no Caribbean-That-Was Cruise, and someone else recognizes Nitro.